Where did the zeal go for the “new frontier?”

Posted on October 28, 2008 by

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Apparently, I need to do some more blog surfing because I missed this post by Mark Grimsley. In a follow-up post, Mark posted Anne Rubin’s presentation that details her “disenchantment” with digital history as it relates to the Civil War. Her “Sherman’s March” project sounds ambitious, but well-worth the effort.

Rubin is absolutely on target about the current state of the Civil War on the Web. It is archival in nature and this is great for those (myself included) who want to have easier access to quality resources, but it misses the potential of the Web. When the big splash of digital history kicked off in the 90s, I think, in articles such as this one (written by Edward L. Ayers), we could see so much potential. More recently, Cohen and Rosenzweig also suggested ambitious moves in their book, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web. While the digital archives has grown on the Web and historians have clearly found the gathering and preserving part a great feature, the presenting part needs some tweaking. I’ve mentioned it before, but we really need to take advantage of what we have in front of us, not only in the software and hardware, but in the way we can apply many other principles (the use of color, typography, and principles of cognitive learning… just to name a few) that make our presentations more effective and meaningful, especially considering the Nintendo DS and Wii generation that is growing up on games that are both interactive and immersive. It’s time to move beyond the book and make history come alive.

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